What is the meaning of the poem Desiderata?

desiderata poem print


The meaning of Desiderata

This powerful yet simple poem was written by Max Ehrmann from Indiana during the 1920s for his daughter. The title Desiderata means ‘things that are desired or wanted’. In its 46 lines it gives a strong and positive framework for life, telling how to keep important things at the front of your mind and how to balance your career with aspirations and inner peace It suggests how you should strive to be a good person even if the world around you doesn’t always treat you well or fairly.

The poem is cleverly written because the poet gives a piece of advice in one line and then in the next line, he explains why it is sound advice.

The opening line of this famous prose poem often replaces the title and is much quoted. It declares one of the main themes of the poem- peace. There is sound advice in lines seven and eight which recommends that that you listen to everyone as they all ‘have their story’.

The poem is powerful because it does not portray any characters or location so readers can readily identify with it and understand how they can use the advice it gives in their own lives.

In the first lines, the poet emphasises silence and this becomes another theme that is interwoven in the lines. The poet recommends staying away from ‘loud and aggressive persons’ and also to stay away from things that ‘ rouse your spirit painfully or unnecessarily’.

In Desiderata, the poet also explains why both self worth and self analysis are important and so is appreciating the virtues on other people. The poet suggests that it is also fundamental to understand one’s own relationship with the world- and to always be yourself.

The closing lines of the poem are very special as they remind everyone to remember the beauty of the world -even in low moments. They encourage the reader to try to be happy and the reader is left feeling confident that if they follow the advice given, this will be possible – no wonder it is our most popular poem...


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